Top Historic Sights in Shetland, United Kingdom

Explore the historic highlights of Shetland

Jarlshof

Jarlshof is the best known prehistoric archaeological site in Shetland Islands. It lies near the southern tip of the Shetland Mainland and has been described as 'one of the most remarkable archaeological sites ever excavated in the British Isles'. It contains remains dating from 2500 BC up to the 17th century AD. The Bronze Age settlers left evidence of several small oval houses with thick stone walls and various artefact ...
Founded: 2500 BC | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Scalloway Castle

Scalloway Castle was built from 1599 by Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl of Orkney to tighten his grip on Shetland. The Stewart family, as Earls of Orkney and Shetland, had a dramatic impact on both groups of islands. Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney was the illegitimate son of James V of Scotland and one of his mistresses, Euphemia Elphinstone. He was born in 1533, and in 1564 he was given the recreated Earldom of Orkney and ...
Founded: 1599 | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Old Scatness Broch

Old Scatness is an archeological site consisting of medieval, Viking, Pictish, and Bronze Age remains. It has been a settlement for thousands of years, each new generation adding buildings, and leveling off old ones. A broch was discovered in 1975 and has been dated to 400-200 BC. The site is managed by the Shetland Amenity Trust. In the summer, costumed guides provide tours of the site and the replica Iron Age and Pictis ...
Founded: 400-200 BC | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Lunna Church

Lunna Kirk (church) probably dates back at least in part to the 1100s and is by far the oldest building in use for Christian worship in Shetland. The church has an unusual structure, with both of the side walls supported by a series of massive buttresses. An unusual feature on the east side of the church, which is likely to date back to a major rebuild of the structure in the 1300s or 1400s, is a lepers" squint, desi ...
Founded: 1100s | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Tangwick Haa Museum

Originally built in the late 17th century for the Cheyne family, owners of the Tangwick estate, Tangwick Haa was converted into a local history museum in the late 1980s. The Laird’s Room is furnished as it would have been in the 19th century and is filled a variety of Victorian artefacts while the Reception Room displays agricultural tools and household objects from the period. There are also historical photographs ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Tingwall Church

Tingwall Church dates back to the 12th century, though not in its present form. Originally it was St Magnus Church, one of three steeple churches in Shetland. This building survived five to six hundred years, and part of this building may be seen in the burial crypt adjacent to the church. In charge of the Church, and indeed of all Christianity in Shetland, was the Archdeacon of Tingwall, an office that dates from 1215 AD ...
Founded: 1790 | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Scord of Brouster

The Scord of Brouster is one of the earliest Neolithic farm sites in Shetland. It has been dated to 2220 BC with a time window of 80 years on either side. It comprises three houses, several fields surrounded by walls, and a cairn. A sign by the Scord of Brouster states that the climate of Shetland became wetter towards 1500 BC, and that peat forming near the fields eventually forced the farmers to permanently abandon the ...
Founded: 2220 BC | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Gardie House

Gardie House is an 18th-century estate house, unique in Shetland. The Henderson family owned Gardie from the 17th century, and in 1724 Magnus Henderson (died 1753) had the present house built. The builder was a mason from Aberdeen named Forbes. The double-pile plan of Gardie was relatively novel in the early 18th century. The symmetrical arrangement of walled gardens leading down to a harbour was laid out at the same time ...
Founded: 1724 | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Stanydale Temple

Stanydale Temple was a Neolithic roofed building. Today all that remains is a large, walled enclosure. There is uncertainty about the original purpose of the building, but its unusual size indicates some communal purpose, or that it was possibly the home of an important person. The building lies within a field of about 3.2 ha almost completely surrounded by a dry stone wall. The field contains two smaller stone houses an ...
Founded: 2500-2000 BC | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Kirkjubøargarður

Kirkjubøargarður ('Yard of Kirkjubøur', also known as King"s Farm) is one of the oldest still inhabited wooden houses of the world. The farm itself has always been the largest in the Faroe Islands. The old farmhouse dates back to the 11th century. It was the episcopal residence and seminary of the Diocese of the Faroe Islands, from about 1100. Sverre I of Norway (1151–1202), grew up here and went to the priest school. The legend says, that the wood for the block houses came as driftwood from Norway and was accurately bundled and numbered, just for being set up. Note, that there is no forest in the Faroes and wood is a very valuable material. Many such wood legends are thus to be found in Faroese history.

The oldest part is a so-called roykstova (reek parlour, or smoke room). Perhaps it was moved one day, because it does not fit to its foundation. Another ancient room is the loftstovan (loft room). It is supposed that Bishop Erlendur wrote the 'Sheep Letter' here in 1298. This is the earliest document of the Faroes we know today. It is the statute concerning sheep breeding on the Faroes. Today the room is the farm"s library. The stórastovan (large room) is from a much later date, being built in 1772.

Though the farmhouse is a museum, the 17th generation of the Patursson Family, which has occupied it since 1550, is still living here. Shortly after the Reformation in the Faroe Islands in 1538, all the real estate of the Catholic Church was seized by the King of Denmark. This was about half of the land in the Faroes, and since then called King"s Land (kongsjørð). The largest piece of King"s Land was the farm in Kirkjubøur due to the above-mentioned Episcopal residence. This land is today owned by the Faroese government, and the Paturssons are tenants from generation to generation. It is always the oldest son, who becomes King"s Farmer, and in contrast to the privately owned land, the King"s Land is never divided between the sons.

The farm holds sheep, cattle and some horses. It is possible to get a coffee here and buy fresh mutton and beef directly from the farmer. In the winter season there is also hare hunting for the locals. Groups can rent the roykstovan for festivities and will be served original Faroese cuisine.

Other famous buildings directly by the farmhouse are the Magnus Cathedral and the Saint Olav"s Church, which also date back to the mediaeval period. All three together represent the Faroe Island"s most interesting historical site.